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What You Need To Know About 'Walking' Pneumonia

Medically reviewed by January Velasco, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Excel Dyquiangco · Updated Sep 06, 2021

What You Need To Know About 'Walking' Pneumonia

You might have heard of pneumonia, but have you ever heard of walking pneumonia? It is a non-medical, informal term used to describe atypical pneumonia. Symptoms of atypical pneumonia can be so mild that you can continue doing your daily activities, hence the term “walking”. 

Despite its less severe condition, walking (atypical) pneumonia should not be overlooked. To better prevent this condition, it’s important to differentiate it from regular pneumonia.

How is atypical (“Walking”) Pneumonia different from regular Pneumonia?

The difference between atypical and regular pneumonia lies in the following factors:

  • Walking or atypical pneumonia has milder symptoms.
  • Those with this “walking” pneumonia typically don’t require hospitalization.
  • “Walking” pneumonia is typically caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Regular pneumonia is usually caused by Streptococcus pneumonia, rhinovirus, or influenza (flu) virus.

There are other types of  atypical pneumonia. These include Chlamydia pneumonia and Legionella pneumonia or Legionnaires’ disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia 

As mentioned, atypical pneumonia causes milder symptoms.

These signs and symptoms include: 

  • chronic cough (that can by dry or productive)
  • Colds
  • sore throat (Pharyngitis)
  • chest pain 
  • Headaches
  • mild chills
  • sore throat
  • low-grade Fever
  • lingering fatigue
  • skin rash or ear infection (in some cases)

The symptoms of atypical pneumonia are quite similar to regular pneumonia, just that it is less severe. Still, it is best to have yourself checked by your doctor should you experience any of these symptoms.

How long is a person contagious?

Those with atypical pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, can transmit the condition for 2 to 4 weeks before the onset of symptoms.

This contagious period can last until their symptoms disappear. This is why it’s important to know about this type of pneumonia. Because it could be transmitted without a person’s knowledge.

Who is Most at Risk for Walking Pneumonia? 

Anyone can develop atypical pneumonia, but it is more common in those younger than 40 years old, including children. Those who work in crowded places – such as schools, prisons or shelters – may also be susceptible to atypical pneumonia. 

Other high-risk groups include those with the following conditions:

walking pneumonia

Possible Causes of “Walking” Pneumonia 

This is often a result of a lung infection, which may be caused by:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Viruses
  • Inhaled food
  • Chemicals

Atypical pneumonia transmission happens through person-to person contact. More specifically, through droplets expelled when coughing or sneezing.

But according to some experts, it takes a lot of close contact with an infected person for you to develop this disease.

Treatment and Prevention

Antibiotics can treat atypical pneumonia. Mild symptoms, however, are not treated as they tend to  clear up on their own.

As walking pneumonia usually displays flu-like symptoms, people treat it with over-the-counter medicines for flu and fever.

This may not relieve you of all your symptoms. It is best to  consult and talk to your doctor about any medicines you are taking or are planning to take. 

When it comes to prevention, there are some steps that you can take to lessen the risk of atypical or walking pneumonia.

Here are some of them:


A strong immune system is needed to fight off bacteria and viruses like walking pneumonia. This can be achieved by keeping your body strong.

Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated; you can transform your everyday activities into a workout session. Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs.

Walk or jog around your neighborhood or even help with cleaning your house. It is important not to be sedentary and always keep your body moving.

Maintain a healthy, balanced diet

Make sure your diet has the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, and fats. Incorporate vitamins and minerals into your daily diet to keep your body healthy.

Get enough rest

Most adults need 6-8 hours of good quality sleep to completely recharge. Keeping your gadgets such as laptops and mobile phones at a safe distance before going to sleep will help you get a better night’s sleep.

Maintain good hygiene

Wash your hands frequently.

Most common infections are spread by hands. Washing your hands often will significantly decrease the frequency of viral and bacterial infection such as atypical pneumonia.  

When sneezing or coughing, cover your nose and your mouth with your sleeves or a tissue. Make sure that you don’t touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after and  throw away the tissue immediately. Also, ask others to do the same.

Limit or quit smoking

Taking steps to limit or quit smoking and lessening alcohol intake can reduce the risk of atypical pneumonia. Smoking damages the lungs, making it harder for the body to fight off certain diseases.

Get vaccinated

If possible, get a flu shot each year. There are new flu vaccines every year because strains of virus change over time. We would recommend visiting your doctor at least once a year and ask about flu shots. This can help you prevent pneumonia caused by the flu. 

Key Takeaways 

While walking pneumonia isn’t life threatening, it shouldn’t be  neglected. If you exhibit any of its symptoms, it is best to consult with a doctor for proper diagnosis and medication.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

January Velasco, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Excel Dyquiangco · Updated Sep 06, 2021

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